Christianity in Greater Boston

1620    The Pilgrims establish Plymouth Plantation, south of present day Boston, becoming the first permanent Christian community in the region.

1630    Led by Governor John Winthrop, Boston is established by the Puritans. Prior to their arrival, Winthrop preaches a sermon entitled “A Model of Christian Charity,” urging the new colonists to establish an ideal Christian community based on Puritan values.

1633    Rev. John Cotton, a renowned Puritan clergyman, arrives from England to become the minister of First Church in Boston.

1637    Anne Hutchinson, a learned Puritan woman, leads Bible study and theological discussions in her home. After expressing disagreement with leading clergy, she is tried for heresy, found guilty, and banished from the Colony.

1651    Rev. John Eliot establishes Natick as a “praying town,” an enclave for Native Americans who have converted to Christianity.

1660    Mary Dyer, a member of the Society of Friends, is arrested and hanged on Boston Common for repeatedly defying a law banning Quakers from the Colony. She is one of four executed Quakers who became known as the Boston martyrs.

1663    Rev. John Eliot publishes the Bible in the Algonquin language; this is the first Bible printed in America.

1688    Rev. Increase Mather travels to England on a diplomatic mission to advocate for a new charter for the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

1692    Accusations of witchcraft in Salem result in the trial and execution of nineteen people.

1700    As colonial tensions between the French and English increase, magistrates in the Massachusetts Bay Colony ban all Catholic priests.

1740    Rev. George Whitefield preaches on Boston Common during the “Great Awakening,” helping to spark a series of revivals that spread throughout the Northeast.

1775    Paul Revere hangs signals in the steeple of the Old North Church to warn colonists of British troops advancing on Lexington and Concord.

1779    The new Massachusetts Constitution becomes law; provisions in the Constitution protect the right of all Christians to worship as they chose.

1785    King’s Chapel, formerly an Anglican church, revises its prayer book, and becomes the first Unitarian Church in the United States.

1788    The first Roman Catholic Church in Boston, Holy Cross Catholic Church, is established on School Street. The first public Mass is led by a French naval chaplain, L’Abbé Claude de la Poterie.

1790    First Methodist Society of Lynn is established; it is the first Methodist Society in Boston.

1805    Henry Ware, a Unitarian, is appointed Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard, sparking a controversy within the Congregational Churches over Unitarian beliefs.

The First African Baptist Church is established, the first independent black church in Boston. Rev. Thomas Paul, hired the following year, becomes the first African-American minister in Boston.

1808    Father Jean-Louis de Cheverus is made Bishop of Boston, as the number of Catholics in Boston increases.

1812    Five Andover Seminary graduates are ordained as missionaries at Tabernacle Congregational Church in Salem, becoming the first American overseas missionaries.

1825    Newton Theological Institute is formed, the oldest Baptist Seminary in the country.

1833    Massachusetts disestablishes the Congregational Church as the official church in the Commonwealth, becoming the last state to end the practice of having a state-sponsored church.

1834    The New England Anti-Slavery Society is launched by William Lloyd Garrison at the African Meeting House.

The Ursuline Convent in Charlestown is burned by a Protestant mob, spurred on by anti-Catholic rhetoric in Protestant churches.

1847    Famine ravages Ireland after several years of failed potato crops caused by blight. Boston sends the Jamestown laden with food to Dublin to aid the Irish. 37,000 Irish immigrants arrive in Boston. Significant Irish immigration continues through the following decades.

1863    Boston College is established by the Society of Jesus, and is the first Catholic college in Boston.

1866    John Williams becomes Bishop of the Diocese of Boston, now the second largest Roman Catholic Diocese in United States. Bishop Williams undertakes the construction of many new churches to meet the needs of the growing Catholic community.

1868    Boston University is chartered by Methodists; unlike other institutions of the day, BU is open to all races and both sexes.

1869    Phillip Brooks becomes rector of Trinity Church in Boston; during his tenure, he becomes a renowned preacher and a leading figure in the city.

1870    Boston’s first Seventh Day Adventist church, The Boston Temple, is established after the community holds baptisms in the Charles River.

1873    The Italian community grows in East Boston and the North End. St. Leonard’s of Port Maurice, in the North End, is the first church in Boston built by Italian immigrants.

1875    As Boston’s Roman Catholic population continues to grow, Pope Pius IX raises Boston to the level of Archdiocese; John Williams becomes the first Archbishop of Boston.

The new Cathedral of the Holy Cross is finished in Boston’s South End and is consecrated. Stones from the Ursuline Convent are included in new building.

Mary Baker Eddy publishes Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures.

1879    Mary Baker Eddy founds the Church of Christ, Scientist, and oversees construction of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, on Massachusetts Avenue in Boston. The new denomination grows quickly.

1888    The Pentecostal Church in Lynn is built, marking the beginnings of the Pentecostal movement in Boston.

1891    The Armenian Church of Our Savior, the first Armenian Orthodox Church in the United States, is consecrated in Worchester.

1894    The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts ordains Oscar Lieber Mitchell, an African-American, the first black priest in the Episcopal Church in Boston.

1899    The Greek community grows in Boston and begins holding regular Greek Orthodox worship services in a rented hall in Boston.

1902    The member denominations of what later became the Massachusetts Council of Churches organize, becoming pioneers in the twentieth century ecumenical movement.

1908    Theophan Stylian Noli celebrates the Divine Liturgy in the Albanian language for the first time ever, in St. George’s Eastern Orthodox Church in the South End.

1910    The Fisherman’s Feast of the Madonna Del Soccorso is celebrated for the first time by Sicilian immigrants; today it is the oldest of Boson’s many Italian festivals.

1923    Father Joakim Alexopoulos becomes the first Bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in Boston.

1933    The Massachusetts Council of Churches is established in a merger of the Massachusetts Federation of Churches & the Council of Religious Education.

1938    Emmanuel Gospel Center is established to serve Boston’s urban churches.

1946    Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, the only seminary of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas, moves to Brookline from Connecticut.

1950    Rev. Billy Graham preaches in Boston, sparking a revival among the churches and increased interest in evangelical Christianity.

1953    Howard Thurman becomes Dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University; he is the first African-American to serve as the Dean of the Chapel at a predominantly white institution.

1958    Archbishop Richard J. Cushing is made Cardinal by Pope John XXIII; he is the first Cardinal from Boston.

1961    The Boston Chinese Evangelical Church is founded; today it is the largest Chinese church in Boston.

1963    Area clergy and seminarians participate in the Civil Rights March on Washington.

1965    Cardinal Richard Cushing attends Vatican II and helps craft key documents, including Nostra Aetate.

Several Spanish-speaking churches emerge to minister to the growing Hispanic community in Boston, including Iglesia de Dios, M.B.

1968    The Boston Theological Institute is established to increase collaboration among the area’s many seminaries and theological schools.

Mary Daly, a faculty member at Boston College, publishes The Church and the Second Sex, a landmark feminist text critiquing the oppression of women in the church.

1969    The First Haitian Baptist Church of Boston is founded to minister to the emerging Haitian community; the community has continued to grow, and today, there are more than 500 independent Haitian churches in Boston.

1971    Mary Daly preaches at Memorial Chapel at Harvard and stages “Exodus” (from the church) for women.

1972    St. Mary’s Indian Orthodox Church of Boston is founded, becoming the second Indian Orthodox parish in the United States.

1979    Pope John Paul II visits Boston, conducts Mass on Boston Common.

1989    Barbara C. Harris is consecrated as Bishop in the Diocese of Massachusetts of the Episcopal Church, becoming the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion.

1992    After a shooting occurs at a funeral at Morning Star Baptist Church, prominent black clergy found the Ten Point Coalition to work on reducing violence among youth in Boston.

1996    Jubilee Christian Fellowship is founded in Mattapan; today it is the largest church in Boston, with a membership of over 5,000.

2000    Emmanuel Gospel Center publishes their Millennium edition of the Boston Church Directory, listing over 500 congregations in Boston.

2002    Cardinal Law resigns as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Boston in the wake of a scandal over sexual misconduct by priests in the Archdiocese.

2009    Massachusetts Bible Society celebrates its bicentenary with re-enactment of the original charter.